I saw a post this morning by David Anderson this morning on how a fault tolerant culture helps create great teams.  Admittedly he was talking about the British cycling team's recent gold medal haul but the point is valid regardless.  In his post he referred to W. Edwards Deming whom I'd never heard of as a source for the principle of removing fear from a culture.  Curious, I flicked over to the wikipedia entry and had a look at what the esteemed but unheard of Deming had to say.

Here's an excerpt from the wikipedia entry:

Deming's 14 points

Deming offered fourteen key principles for management for transforming business effectiveness. The points were first presented in his book Out of the Crisis (p. 23-24)[19].

  1. Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and stay in business, and to provide jobs.
  2. Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for change.
  3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.
  4. End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag. Instead, minimize total cost. Move towards a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.
  5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, an thus constantly decrease cost.
  6. Institute training on the job.
  7. Institute leadership (see Point 12 and Ch. 8 of "Out of the Crisis"). The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers.
  8. Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company. (See Ch. 3 of "Out of the Crisis")
  9. Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service.
  10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force.
  11. a. Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute leadership.
    b. Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.
  12. a. Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.
    b. Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means, inter alia, abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objective (See CH. 3 of "Out of the Crisis").
  13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.
  14. Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody's work.

What struck me as I read this was how much lean and agile processes try to utilise the principles.

Here's my quick take on alignment between Deming's principles and agile methods:

Point 1 - Constancy of purpose.  Best described by the agile manifesto.  It's a clear and unchanging vision of what agile methods are all about and what they are trying to achieve.

Point 2 - Take on leadership for change.  Agile understands and accepts change.  Change happens - let's make the most of it and lead the way towards change.  Change for the better.

Point 3 - Build quality into the product from the start.  Test Driven Development (see video) is a perfect example of this as is the desire to minimise code debt.

Point 4 - Minimize cost.  Time is the number one cost in software development.  Minimizing wasted effort is the single best way to reduce cost.  Minimal code debt also goes a very long way to achieving this

Point 5 - Improve constantly.  Agile calls this principle "inspect and adapt". It's embodied in scrum retrospectives and other review processes.

Point 6 - Training on the job.  For developers this is encapsulated by pair programming.

Point 7 - Institute leadership.  Leadership in an agile project arises from within a team - it is not imposed through management hierarchies (and imposed "leadership" is typically psuedo-leadership - leaders still naturally arise in teams).

Point 8 - Drive out fear.  I don't know that this is explicitly addressed by any agile methodology per se but it is something that all good leaders will endeavour to build into their teams.

Point 9 - Break down barriers.  Agile methods cry out for openness and collaboration.  It's at the heart of what agile is all about.  Barriers are impediments and slow down teams.

Point 10  Eliminate slogans, targets, etc.  The essence of this is that management can't drive people to work harder to improve because of organisational impediments (the system). In software development "the system" is the organisation and the red-tape and processes that organisation imposes on their staff.  Scrum in particular addresses this (indirectly) through the role of Scrum Master - a person responsible for removing impediments to the team.  If the organisation is slow the Scrum Master should be addressing that.

Point 11 - Substitute Leadership.  See point 7.

Point 12 - Remove barriers.  Covered in points 9 & 10.

Point 13 - Self improvement.  Once again the inspect and adapt principle at play - good teams should be applying this personally as well as at a team level.

Point 14 - Everyone works to achieve transformation.  The is the very essence of an organisation with an agile heart.  Everyone working together to achieve an objective and improve what they do.


I think I might have to go and hunt for Deming's book and have a read.  I'd be interested in your thoughts as well - especially if you've read Deming's work.